Post Cane given to new holder

WILTON – The town’s Boston Post Cane was passed to its new holder, Kay Williams, at a brief and impromptu ceremony on Monday, May 9. It had been held for the last six years by Polly Kenick, who died last week at age 106. Lois Kenick was scheduled to return the cane to the Board of Selectmen at the regular meeting on Monday.

Monday was Willaims’ birthday – she turned 97 – and officials determined she was the now the oldest resident.

On her arrival, Kenick was asked if she would like to present the cane to Williams, which she did. Polly Kenick was proud of the cane, her daughter said. "She saw it as the symbol of the town and as the cane holder, she was the symbol of the town," Kenick said. "She carried it proudly to all the places she thought it should go and be seen." That included bringing it when she came to vote, an occasion she never missed until the last primary, and to all important meetings and town events.

"She carried it on a float in the Old Home Days Parade last year," Kenick said. "I hope you feel the same way."

Williams said she was unfamiliar with the cane and was a little skeptical, saying she had lived in town for only four years and that perhaps she wasn’t "the right person." Assured that she was, Kenick told her, "Have fun. Have a ball with it." Wilton has the original cane, given to the town in 1909 – the year Polly Kenick was born – by the former Boston Post newspaper as an advertising gimmick. It was to be presented to the town’s oldest resident – in the eyes of Publisher Edwin Grozier, that meant the oldest male voter – and then passed on to the next person. Women were not officially recognized until the 1930s, although some towns ignored the male provision from the beginning. Many of the 700 towns in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont that received the gold-headed ebony canes have lost them one way or another. Some towns no longer present the cane, preferring to keep it safe and giving a replica or a certificate. Wilton presents the real thing to its holders. The cane was retired many years ago and kept in the town office. The tradition was revived, and the cane presented to retired Adm. Charles Khoury, the holder before Polly Kenick, who received it in 2008. Wilton’s first recipient was Michael Holland, who was 93.

For an in-depth history, find a copy of "The Granite State’s Boston Post Canes," written by Barbara Staples in 1999. Lois Kenick also presented the selectmen with a picture of her mother. Polly Kenick is shown in her wheelchair emerging from a voting booth at the last presidential election, smiling broadly and carrying the cane. She asked the selectmen to begin a photo gallery of the cane holders.

The selectmen agreed to do that, saying that a prominent place would be found to display them."